- March 9, 2023
An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a portable device that checks the heart rhythm. If needed, it can send an electric shock to the heart to try to restore a normal rhythm. AEDs are used to treat sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).
SCA usually causes death if it’s not treated within minutes. In fact, each minute of SCA leads to a 10% reduction in survival. Using an AED on a person who is having SCA may save the person’s life. Here on Longboat Key we have several condominiums and clubs that that have implemented an AED program. Also, all of the town facilities have AEDs, including the Longboat Key Publix Tennis Center, Longboat Key Town Hall, and the Public Safety Complex.
To understand how AEDs work, it helps to understand how the heart works.
The heart has an internal electrical system that controls the rate and rhythm of the heartbeat. With each heartbeat, an electrical signal spreads from the top of the heart to the bottom. As the signal travels, it causes the heart to contract and pump blood. The process repeats with each new heartbeat.
Problems with the electrical system can cause abnormal heart rhythms called arrhythmias. During an arrhythmia, the heart can beat too fast, too slow or with an irregular rhythm. Some arrhythmias can cause the heart to stop pumping blood to the body. These arrhythmias cause SCA.
AEDs are lightweight, battery-operated, portable devices that are easy to use. Each unit comes with instructions, and the device will even give you voice prompts to let you know if and when you should send a shock to the heart.
Learning how to use an AED and taking a CPR course are helpful. However, if trained personnel aren’t available, untrained people also can use an AED to help save someone’s life.
You often find AEDs in places with many people, such as shopping malls, golf courses, businesses, airports, airplanes, casinos, convention centers, hotels, sports venues and schools. You also can purchase a home-use AED.
Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are safe to use. There are no reports of AEDs harming bystanders or users. Also, there are no reports of AEDs delivering inappropriate shocks.
If someone is having sudden cardiac arrest, using an AED and giving CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) can improve the person’s chance of survival.
Longboat Key Fire Rescue provides CPR and AED classes and demonstrations either at your facility or at the fire station. Please contact Fire Chief Paul Dezzi at 941-316-1944 for more information.
Paul Dezzi is chief of Longboat Key Fire Rescue.
Dezzi: How to use an AED
Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) offer life-saving treatment to cardiac arrest victims.
If someone is having a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), you may see him or her suddenly collapse and pass out. Or, you may find the person unconscious and unable to respond when you call or shake him or her.
The person may not be breathing, or he or she may have an abnormal breathing pattern. If you check, you usually can't find a pulse. The person's skin may become dark or blue from lack of oxygen. Also, the person may not move, or his or her movements may look like a seizure (spasms).
Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) can check the person's heart rhythm and determine whether an electric shock is needed to try to restore a normal rhythm.
Before using an AED on someone who you think is having SCA, check him or her. If you see a person suddenly collapse and pass out, or if you find a person already unconscious, confirm that the person can't respond. Shout at and shake the person to make sure he or she isn't sleeping. Never shake an infant or young child. Instead, you can pinch the child to try to wake him or her up.
Call 911 or have someone else call 911. If two rescuers are present, one can provide CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) while the other calls 911 and gets the AED. Check the person's breathing and pulse. If breathing and pulse are absent or irregular, prepare to use the AED as soon as possible. (SCA causes death if it's not treated within minutes.)
If no one knows how long the person has been unconscious, or if an AED isn't readily available, do two minutes of CPR. Then use the AED (if you have one) to check the person. After you use the AED, or if you don't have an AED, give CPR until emergency medical help arrives or until the person begins to move. Try to limit pauses in CPR. After two minutes of CPR, you can use the AED again to check the person's heart rhythm and give another shock, if needed. If a shock isn't needed, continue CPR.
Before using an AED, check for puddles of water near the person who is unconscious. Move him or her to a dry area, and stay away from wetness when delivering shocks (water conducts electricity).
Turn on the AED's power. The device will give you step-by-step instructions. You'll hear voice prompts and see prompts on a screen.
Expose the person's chest. If the person's chest is wet, dry it. AEDs have sticky pads with sensors called electrodes. Apply the pads to the person's chest as pictured on the AED's instructions. Place one pad on the right center of the person's chest above the nipple. Place the other pad slightly below the other nipple and make sure the sticky pads have good connection with the skin. If the connection isn't good, the machine may repeat the phrase "check electrodes."
If the person has a lot of chest hair, you may have to trim it. (AEDs usually come with a kit that includes scissors and/or a razor.) If the person is wearing a medication patch that's in the way, remove it and clean the medicine from the skin before applying the sticky pads.Remove metal necklaces and underwire bras. The metal may conduct electricity and cause burns. You can cut the center of the bra and pull it away from the skin.
Check the person for implanted medical devices, such as a pacemaker or implantable defibrillator. (The outline of these devices is visible under the skin on the chest or abdomen, and the person may be wearing a medical alert bracelet.) Move the defibrillator pads at least one inch away from implanted devices or piercings so the electric current can flow freely between the pads.
Check that the wires from the electrodes are connected to the AED. Make sure no one is touching the person, and then press the AED’s “analyze” button. Stay clear while the machine checks the person's heart rhythm. If a shock is needed, the AED will let you know when to deliver it. Stand clear of the person and make sure others are clear before you push the AED's "shock" button.
Start or resume CPR until emergency medical help arrives or until the person begins to move. Stay with the person until medical help arrives, and report all of the information you know about what has happened.
AEDs are safe to use. There are no reports of AEDs harming bystanders or users. Also, there are no reports of AEDs delivering inappropriate shocks.
If someone is having sudden cardiac arrest, using an AED and giving CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) can improve the person's chance of survival.
Longboat Key Fire Rescue provides CPR and AED classes and demonstrations either at your facility or at the fire station. Contact Fire Chief Paul Dezzi at 941-316-1944 for more information.